Crane collapses at new Milwaukee stadium

SARAH WYATT
Associated Press Writer
Published Thursday, July 15, 1999

MILWAUKEE -- One of the world's largest cranes collapsed while lifting a 400-ton load onto the partially completed Miller Park, killing three workers and leaving the Milwaukee Brewers' stadium plans in limbo.

The crane, nicknamed "Big Blue," was lowering a piece of the $400 million stadium's retractable roof when it essentially broke in half and came crashing down late Wednesday afternoon.

"It was like two bombs going off. It was like two explosions," said Gary Craig, who lives near the stadium. "When I went outside I looked around and saw the helicopters hovering over the stadium, and I could see that the crane was gone."

Names of the three victims were not released Wednesday. Five others were injured, said Milwaukee County Sheriff Lev Baldwin.

Traffic tangled today on the highway surrounding the stadium as curious motorists slowed to look at the construction collapse at daybreak.

Though the cause of the accident had not been determined, winds were gusting to 26 mph at the time of the crane collapse, which left a heap of broken, twisted metal sitting in the center of the new stadium being built for the Brewers.

"It looks like a bomb hit. It's treacherous and it's unbelievable," said Milwaukee Sheriff Lev Baldwin. He said the investigation into the cause could take months.

One of the injured was a 64-year-old crane operator who was ejected from the crane's cabin and fell 20 or 30 feet, said Mark McLaughlin, a spokesman for Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital.

The man was listed in stable condition today with a broken hip and broken right shoulder.

Another person was treated for a dislocated collarbone and released from Columbia Hospital, said spokeswoman Kathy Schmitz.

Baldwin said some construction workers left early from the construction site, and police did not know how many people were actually working when the accident happened.

The 43,000-seat, grass-field ballpark had been scheduled to open next April, but the completion date was uncertain after Wednesday's accident.

The Brewers postponed tonight's game with Kansas City out of respect for the accident victims. The team plays in Milwaukee County Stadium, adjacent to the new one.

Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said he was "horrified" by the accident.

"It's just a game, baseball," Norquist said. "What happened today was death, and that's horrible."

The huge crane, soaring 480 feet into the air, was used to lift seven sections of a roof structure with a total weight of 12,000 tons.